CAREX Canada investigated whether enough testing is being done in Canadian schools for radioactive cancer-causing gas.

Is enough testing being done in Canadian schools for radioactive cancer-causing gas?

November 10, 2016

CAREX Canada, a national project based at SFU Health Sciences that estimates Canadians’ exposures to cancer-causing agents in workplaces and communities, has recently released a report investigating radon testing in schools across the country.

It found Quebec to be the only province with mandatory school testing for radon—a colourless and odourless gas that is the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers.

British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario and Manitoba have had low rates of radon testing in schools since 2007, when Health Canada lowered the guidelines for acceptable levels of radon in homes and public buildings. Saskatchewan, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and the Yukon have tested all schools for radon at least once since 2007.

Testing is the only way to know if dangerous amounts of the gas is present. Radon is a naturally-occurring radioactive gas emitted from the decay of uranium found in rocks and soil. The gas can enter and accumulate in buildings through unfinished floors, wall slab joints, windows, and cracks and openings in foundations.

“Given that children and staff spend a considerable amount of time in schools where radon levels can build up, it is important to not only implement radon testing initiatives regularly but to also ensure that radon levels are lowered if they pose a risk,” says Anne-Marie Nicol, SFU health sciences professor and lead for CAREX Canada.

CAREX Canada documented testing efforts by contacting ministries of education, school boards, unions and radon professionals. The research did not capture whether remediation efforts took place where results showed elevated levels of radon.

They will be hosting a webinar with the BC Teachers’ Federation this month to raise awareness, facilitate networks and support action on addressing exposure to radon gas. The month of November is Radon Action Month.

CAREX Canada is funded by the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer, an independent organization funded by Health Canada to accelerate action on cancer control.

The report can be accessed here